by H.E. Taylor
|Chapter 36||Table of Contents||Chapter 38|
UNGETF Reacts, March 24, 2056
The public reaction after the Group 2 disaster was muted in North America. Not so in the USSA. A huge crowd rioted in Brasilia and burnt down the DCS building. The police just stood around and watched; firemen did not attend. The technical staff and a couple of executives were killed. UNGETF was forced to suspend Group 2 operations in the USSA.
At the next regular meeting, we were informed that Group 6, the cloud makers, had been given the go ahead. It was going to take some time to organize. Fleets of vessels were being outfitted with wind and solar power to sail the polar regions creating clouds by jetting mist and water into the air. In a fine bit of irony, the company, Diamond, Ross and Associates Ltd., was using a fleet of retired oil tankers. They were concentrating on the poles because they wanted to slow down the methane release and hopefully avoid further melting of the Western Antarctic ice sheet. The likelihood of Group 6 being effective was thought to be low, but it did have a certain PR value and was judged to be relatively benign.
There was also some talk of activating Group 5, the space elevator and sun shield folks, but those plans were long term and expensive. Space needle, sky hook, space hook, space elevator — the project had several monikers — would take at least 4 years to complete, if everything went as planned. But it all seemed very nebulous.
I left the meeting feeling much more unsure of the future.
Later that night, I got another late night call from Rhamaposa . Edie had already gone to bed and Anna was sleeping. I took the call in the front room, but kept the sound low so it wouldn’t disturb them.
“Peter. Hello. Where are you calling from?”
“Bangkok,” he repeated the word slowly like he hadn’t heard me. He was savouring the sound. I realized he had been drinking again.
“You know, it doesn’t seem to matter a damn what I say. I told them they should think twice about spending 10 trillion credits on unproven technology, but no. Do they listen?” he took a slug from a long green bottle and shook his head.
“The big money boys really don’t much care about the public good. The thing that sold them was cheap access to space. Several major corporations have received 50 year long access rights to the space elevator. Trillions of credits. What do you do? Without their help, we couldn’t move. And that would mean CO2 shoots up to 1500 ppm and that’s just too terrible to contemplate.”
He shook his head and looked down. I didn’t know what to say, but he didn’t seem to care. “I’ve commissioned outside auditors to monitor the spending, so we won’t have to worry about that side of it, but we’ll have to keep an eye on these guys. That will be material sciences, mainly Makeba. Christ, she’s still pissed at me for not listening to her software quality rant.” He shook his head. “I’ve got to mend some fences there.”
He took another slug from the long green bottle and looked up at me with an odd expression on his face — almost as if he were surprised to find himself talking to me.
“I’ve got to go. Good morning Luc.”
I shut the screen off and sat back to think.
“Is he always so devious?” Edie asked from behind.
I jumped and turned sideways.
She stood in the dark, in the kitchen, half visible in a nightgown. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“Devious?” I said.
“He wasn’t nearly as drunk as he was acting.”
“You think not?”
“He acted drunk, but his eyes were dead sober. Is this his idea of advanced management?”
“I don’t know.”
“He’s tricky. Watch out for him,” said Edie and headed back down the hall. “I wouldn’t trust him.”
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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Last modified April 23, 2013